The past 10 years have been memorable, to say the very least. Whether you’re caught up in the unpredictable world of politics, left open-mouthed by the latest franchises making their return to the big screen, or spending your days binging some of the best television shows that screenwriters have to offer, it’s been a decade for the history books.
Today, I’ll be delving into the first 10 of my 20 best scripted television series that either began or continued to run between 2010 and 2019. Let me start by saying that the WhatsApp group I share with colleagues has been quite the s**t show since I started asking for opinions from all corners of the e-staff room! Still, this is MY feature. So what I say goes. If you do have something to say about the shows that made it onto the list, or think something else should have earned a spot, let me know in the comments section, or send me a tweet @DanielJFalconer!
Here are entrants 20-11…
20. Sherlock (2010-present)
Nobody really knows if Sherlock will be returning for another batch of new episodes. That’s been part of the series’ formula for some time, since its lead stars - Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman – become such sought-after talents in Hollywood. Still, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and that’s certainly true of this incredibly well-written show. There may only have been 15 episodes across a decade, but each of them is like a movie. Creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat forged a legacy for a character that has been adapted so many times in the past, blowing all other adaptations out of the water and securing its place in history.
19. American Horror Story (2011-present)
Ryan Murphy is one of the biggest names in television, and for good reason. Having brought shows such as Nip/Tuck and Glee to the small screen in the past, he changed the landscape of the small screen forever when he introduced American Horror Story back in 2011. Revealing that the series would be an anthology, which brought in new characters and storylines in every season, but retained many of the same actors who had been a part of the show from the start, in different roles, he paved the way for series of the future to do the same thing, picking up countless awards along the way.
18. Wentworth Prison (2013-present)
Based on the Australian soap opera Prisoner: Cell Block H, Wentworth Prison (simply titled Wentworth in Australia) brought back some of the show's fan-favourite characters, and offered up a mind-blowing series packed full of gritty twists and turns. Without a doubt the best prison series television has ever seen, Wentworth Prison brings together a cast that is constantly evolving and changing, all of whom give incredible performances throughout.
17. Cucumber (2015)
This simple mini-series followed a handful of characters who enjoyed modern queer life in Manchester, England. Though there were laughs a-plenty, the realism deeply rooted within these characters was relatable on a level that many television shows fail to achieve. When tragedy struck, we experienced the motions of grief and loss with these characters; when they felt good and wanted to give in to their emotions, we could understand why and put ourselves in their shoes. Russell T Davies’ work is always incredible, but Cucumber took things to another level.
16. Years and Years (2019)
Speaking of Russell T Davies, he had another major hit on his hands this year, when he released Years and Years episodically via the BBC. The six-part series followed the individual stories of a Manchester-based family, whose position in the world completely changes on one history-making night in 2019. We see the story move forward into the future - hence the series' moniker - and the characters shift and evolve. Playing the same people at different times in their lives would prove challenging for any actor, but the talent brought together for Years and Years made it look like child’s play. A terrifying look at what could actually come to pass in the future, if those in positions of power continue to treat their responsibility on the world stage as a game.
15. Chernobyl (2019)
This historical drama miniseries was one of the most talked-about television shows of 2019, dramatising the events that led to the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, and the clean-up efforts that followed in the devastating aftermath. Emily Watson, Jared Harris and Stellan Skarsgård put on such a good performance, that Russian media slammed the show as entirely fictional, with Russian state TV supposedly working on their own version of a show chronicling the events.
14. American Crime Story (2016-present)
Another entry from Ryan Murphy here, who put together an incredible opening season of his anthology series American Crime Story. Tackling the trial of O.J. Simpson in Season 1, before moving to the assassination of Gianni Versace in Season 2, the scripted show will delve into the story of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal which led to former President Bill Clinton's impeachment for its third outing. There was a season planned to tackle the aftermath of the events of Hurricane Katrina, but production on those episodes was scrapped earlier this year.
13. The Americans (2013-2018)
Through six seasons, this spy drama allowed some incredible actors to showcase their acting chops thanks to stunning writing that never allowed an audience to look away from the screen. Holding us tight in its grip from beginning to end, The Americans excelled throughout, never wavering in quality. That’s something the show’s creators can stand proudly by; making a series so excellent with each and every episode, when there are so many to present.
12. Rick and Morty (2013-present)
Now four seasons deep, adult animated comedy Rick and Morty is one trippy, yet worthwhile watch. Created by Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon, with Roiland joining the likes of Chris Parnell, Spencer Grammer and Sarah Chalke on the cast, the show takes the unrealistic scenario of an alcoholic grandfather dragging his grandson along for time-travelling adventures, whilst weaving in the very real family domestic disputes that everybody experiences at one point or another. Strangely empowering at times, as we see Morty learn real life lessons from his interdimensional travels, the series is often smarter than people give it credit for. It’s one that you can watch multiple times, and pick up new layers of storytelling and humour with each rewatch.
11. Black-ish (2014-present)
Created by Kenya Barris, Black-ish is a show that has been marred in controversy, because of stupid white men (like the impeached 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump) who don't want to admit that racism against people of colour is still very much a reality in the modern world. The sitcom is currently six seasons deep, and spawned a spin-off called Grown-ish, following the fan-favourite character Zoey Johnson (Yara Shahidi), as she travels to college. American network ABC have also ordered a prequel spin-off called Mixed-ish, centered on a young Dr. Rainbow 'Bow' Johnson and her biracial family in the 1980s. Such success isn’t achieved by chance; Black-ish is a monumental part of television history that not only tackles the racism experienced by many in today’s world, but the bigotry of others towards members of the LGBT+ community, as well as police brutality towards people of colour, and the real fears minorities have under an administration headed up by Donald Trump.
Come back tomorrow to find out which shows made it into the top 10, and who took the overall top spot and title of best scripted TV series of the decade!
Tagged in Television